Monday, 29 October 2018

Writing Update: October 2018

As October draws to a close, I have sadly fallen behind on one of my writing goals. That is to finish and prepare a small omnibus of spooky stories for sale on Amazon Kindle. That's not to say it will never happen, but it won't be reaching its Halloween release date.

Sad as that is, it may be for the best at the moment.

The first story (available for free already on my blog) the Disappearance of Wilson would be on there, while the other two stories I am working on would also be present. Those two are Priests of the White God and Finiphobia.

Priests is a fantasy horror thriller set on the high seas as things are not quite what they seem. The crew of Isidore's Pride flee from the oppressors in the Empire who seek to hunt them down and slaughter them. Their cargo may just save their whole nation, and if it doesn't arrive in time, who knows what could happen? Presently at 4,556 words of 10,000.

Second is Finiphobia. When the world ends, writer Ralph Macintosh thinks he's the last living man in Lanark Falls. Fortunately for him, he stumbles upon Chuck Duncan who is hiding out in the local highschool. The two begin writing the first post-apocalyptic published literature to pass the time, however, disagreements over how the story should end soon take place. Becoming increasingly paranoid of one another, the two men soon discover that they may not have to worry about the infection outside as much as the jealousy inside. Currently at 2,678 words.

Those two stories have been distracted from by work on other short stories, but now I'm aiming to polish them off for perhaps a New Years release, while working on other shorts to pitch around. I can't say much about the other shorts just yet, but I can say I intend to send them off and update you more once they're closer to completion.

Until then, I hope to update you soon on the work I'm attempting and to keep offering fun little other updates on here. Hopefully you'll stick around for more of my work and the blog! Until next time!

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Day By Day Armageddon

Well for my latest review, I'm going to take you back to a simpler time when zombies were all the rage, and they weren't the stars of AMC's The Walking Dead and the White Walkers weren't threatening to cross the Wall. Instead they were simply coming to eat you from the safety of your own living room.

In that vein Day By Day Armageddon should be considered a classic of the zombie literary genre.

This story by J.L. Bourne is presented in diary format, much like Dracula, but with only one POV. Here we enter into the world of one Kil, a former US military aviator who decides to keep a comprehensive journal as a New Years resolution. This is fortunate because he's just in time to chronicle the end of the world.

Reports begin to emerge of a mysterious virus ravaging the population in China. Though the government tries to hush it up, it soon becomes clear that the virus is very contagious, and extremely deadly to all who catch it. The infected become violent and hostile, attacking the uninfected and... well you can see where this is going can't you?

Kil begins chronicling the outbreak from the comfort of his own home in San Antonio, where he does his best to hunker down and ride out the storm. Unfortunately, he begins to see that society at large is starting to fall apart and as the disease breaks containment, he must begin an epic saga of survival, chronicling it all in his journal. He does this so if he dies someone will know what happened, and so he can remain sane.

That's great for us since we wouldn't have a story otherwise!

The first person narrative gives us a great window inside Kil's head as he struggles to come to terms with a world gone literally to hell around him. He has difficulty adjusting to a world gone mad, and the fact that he has to deal with the dead trying to eat him on a daily basis. Seeking just a little bit of humanity he is lucky, encountering other survivors and working together with them in order to survive the total breakdown of the end of the world. From his enigmatic neighbor John, to other survivors and families he meets along the way, even a dog.

Unable to simply, stay put, he bugs out in order to try and get as far away from a high concentration of the undead as possible. This sets us on a journey across the apocalyptic wasteland which was once the United States, one now ravaged by the zombie apocalypse, and a desperate fight against the zombie hordes by surviving military forces trying to reclaim the American continent from the dead.

One thing I like about the story is that the first person narrative gives us an excellent look into the narrator's state of mind. You feel what he feels, and you see things from his, and only his, point of view throughout the story. The fear is real as he relates escapes from near death, and we feel for his companions as it becomes clear at any moment that they could be eaten. The creepy events he experiences stick with you, and it is chilling reading about his early encounters with the undead.

While it is a central conceit the author survive's if we're reading this journal...that's not a guarantee. Considering the number of other doomed survivors whose logs we come across, it's a scary possibility the story could just pick up from someone else's point of view as they come across his last will and testament. But thankfully the author doesn't shuffle off his mortal coil. In this book at least.

Bourne does a great job of showing the collapse of society. From falling satellites to failing power grids, we feel it as the world we know just falls apart. The internet fails, news broadcasts simply cease, and our ability to interact with our fellow man falls by the wayside as the dead isolate us more thoroughly than we can imagine. With little vignettes of the end of the world scattered throughout (encountering a zombified hiker walking the highway eternally in a thunderstorm, an undead infant in a car seat, a humorous message on a bloody apron, ect.) we get chilling insights into how the world has simply collapsed. Many of which, though we may have questions about them, we will never know the answer to what happened.

That paints a haunting picture of a world where mankind is no longer the dominate species. Eternally on the run from the new top predator and outnumbered millions to one.

Despite this, the story still gives us reason to hope. The protagonists stumble from one place of safety to the next, managing to find some measure of community and solace. They look out for one another and protect each other (none of the typical backstabbing and murder drama that punctuates the almost predictable Walking Dead series) and we even see that some semblance of the US government is around and trying to protect people.

Yeah the world is ending, but people can still be people. Good ones at that.

The zombie killing is fun, and to me killing zombies never gets old. Maybe not as creative with the wanton destructive as some stories, it still reads well and it is nice to see some more practical methods of dead dispatching versus over the top gore fests. We also get some fun revelations that the zombies are not quite just undead automatons, but the whole how and why of this armageddon is a treat the reader should enjoy for themselves.

Mr. Bourne also knows his stuff quite well. He presents Kil's story as one of a man who is used to prepping, and so that shines through. From lists of supplies and ammunition, to drawings and doodles that map out his current location. He also avoids the common trope in this type of fiction of waxing poetically about firearms and their different calibers and whatever, instead distilling things down to the practical level making it a quick and easy read.

Now I was lucky enough to buy this in a two book pack which contains both the first novel, and its sequel Beyond Exile which continues the story. There are two further installments after that, and I think all of them keep things going quite nicely.

Reading this book in October has become a sort of Halloween tradition for me, combining my love of the zombie genre with some fun spooks. I think that if you like a good novel, and even if you're tired of zombies, its worth picking up just to enjoy it!

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Bram Stoker's Dracula

Since it is that spooky time of year, I'd like to review a film near to my heart. Yes readers, I'm here to talk about Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula! This film is based on the 1897 novel Dracula by...well obviously by Bram Stoker. The film though, plays a little fast and loose with the narrative and is, by the by, rather more hilarious than scary in my opinion.

So why do I like this movie so much? Well precisely because it is so funny.

Opening in 1462 in Wallachia, we see Prince Vlad Dracula (wearing the absolute weirdest armor I've ever seen on screen), leading his forces against the invading Ottoman Empire. It takes place in a weird shadow puppetry sequence, where most of what happens is hidden in shadow. I guess saves the budget on a big battle scene. He has just been married to his one true love Elisabeta. However, upon his victory the Turks send her false news of his death, in grief she kills herself and Vlad, enraged at priests telling him because she committed suicide her soul is damned, renounces his faith and stabs the crucifix. Oddly, it bleeds literal blood, lots of it, and he drinks it, attaining his evil immortality.

So that's how you make a deal with the devil.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

And Then There Were None

As it is Halloween, I've been pursuing some spooky reads in my spare time and just plowed through the delightfully suspenseful Agatha Christie novel, And Then There Were None. Originally published in 1939, it became Agatha Christie's most popular novel and one of the best selling novels of all time with over 100 million copies published.

The set up is deliciously simple. Ten strangers are invited to the mansion of an eccentric millionaire in August at some point in the 1930s. While they do not know each other, they have all been contacted by an acquaintance knowing details about their lives, little do they know that this is no ordinary acquaintance. The mansion, set on the foreboding and isolated Indian Island, is the most modern in Britain, with all the comforts of home one could ask for off the coast of Devon. As they arrive, queer things begin to take shape, as no one understands quite how they've all gotten there.

Quaint as the mansion is, they are all struck by the strangeness of their situation, with a mysterious poem involving Ten Little Indians enshrined above each of their beds. Soon however, they are all confronted with horrible secrets from their pasts, and it becomes clear everyone there is hiding something. Worst of all, one of them may be a killer.

Now obviously, I cannot tell much more without fear of spoilers, but I must say that the story is set up very compellingly. With all the dark secrets each character holds, and their unique traits and individual sins you have both a hard time sympathizing with them, but getting to know them you begin to hope they don't die. It's a clever and ghoulish idea when you get down to it.

Christie does a bang up job of capturing the isolation and desperation the characters feel as the dread inevitable begins to set in. They have no way off the island, no way to contact the outside world, and no idea who is stalking them in their tiny prison.

As well, the growing paranoia and desperation amongst the characters is fascinating to watch. Otherwise reasonable individuals become hysterical, and murmuring, plotting, and suspicion set in as it becomes clear no one can be trusted. Despite thin veneers of polite civility, as their numbers dwindle, those imprisoned on the island cannot help but turn on and to each other in hope of safety.

Exploring the increasingly desperate psyches of these guilty persons as they each end up coming out about their own pasts is fascinating. The struggle to survive and the hope of getting off the island will ensure that readers are sucked in and tear through this piece. It's a psychological thriller at its finest, and one which I would highly recommend to anyone who loves the genre.

The ending of course, has a fantastic twist, one which more astute readers may figure out early on. I can assure you though, you will find it very satisfying and spooky.

Though the original title Ten Little N---ers is deemed (correctly) far too offensive for today's market, it is apropos of the time period it was written, and anyone seeing copies with that title should't balk it just for that. In spite of that, the book has become Christie's best selling work and her most adapted, even above those of the venerable Hugo Poirot. With a genuinely unique mystery and setting that will strain the reader who attempts to figure it out, its no wonder it has sold so well for decades. The most modern adaption is the 2015 BBC version, which for those who haven't read the book and prefer to watch, I would recommend for its amazing cast and closeness to the original novel.

Until next time, be wary of accepting strange invitations to fantastic locations!